Jay Stewart meets Elvis… (Cape Cod, MA)
Thanks to Pat Cashin and Don Covington for the heads up on this.
Jay was my roommate at Ringling’s clown college. I’d love to go check it out, if I have the time!
JAY STEWART: Elvis… The King and Me
Link courtesy of Don Covington
by Jennifer Sexton
HARWICH, MASSACHUSETTS— Once in a while a show comes along that is so unique, so inspired, and promises so much fun that it is an absolute must-see. “Elvis… The King And Me” is just such a show, and performer Jay Stewart is not to be missed in this one-man semi-autobiographical evening of live music and comedy featuring over 20 of The King’s hit tunes and ballads.
Stewart, a brilliant physical comedian, along with a three-piece live band led by musical director Bob Wilder, lets the music take the lead in this story of the dizzying heights and bottomless heartbreaks of first love at age 13. Anyone who has survived adolescence can relate, and anyone who cranked up the tunes and sang into a hairbrush in front of the mirror to take the edge off teenaged loneliness and heartache will laugh along with Stewart.
“The HJT folks have really gotten behind this very simple idea I had,” says Stewart. “Now it’s a full blown production. It kind of surprises me to see my little idea grow to fruition.”
The show is a departure for Stewart, whose career spans 20 years of clowning. After earning a degree in theater at Wake Forest University, Jay entered circus life as a member of Clown Alley of The Greatest Show on Earth. He has traveled around the world, clowning in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan with the Kinoshita Circus, and in Liuzhou, China as a member of the first-ever Clowning Festival there. He enjoyed a four-year run as the Boss Clown of Clown Alley in the Ringling Bros. Circus, and later founded The Seaside Clowns, a troupe of veteran circus clowns. Jay currently performs with his talented wife Kristin and children Karen and Nick at Harwich Junior Theatre and at festivals and events Cape-wide. During the week he makes rounds as part of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at Children’s Hospital in Boston, bringing hilarity to the bedsides of hospitalized children.
The idea for the show was born last fall, when Stewart performed an Elvis song during karaoke at a birthday party. The guests included HJT artistic director Nina Schuessler.
“It was mostly friends and theater folks, and Nina said, ‘You really do that well! You should put something together for the stage!’” says Stewart. “I thought OK, she’s just talking off the top of her head. But then a few weeks later we were talking and she said again, ‘I want you to do something!’ And so I started writing.”
Stewart knew that he didn’t want to dress up in a jumpsuit and become another Elvis impersonator. Instead, he was inspired by his own experiences growing up in the South with Elvis Presley’s music and the way it seemed to act as a soundtrack for his memories.
“A lot of Elvis Presley songs can be broken into little subsets in my mind,” Stewart explains. “There are the ones where he wants to be with the girl. He’s yearning for the girl. Then there are the ones where he’s with the girl. They are dating, or going steady, and they’ve got a relationship. Then there’s the breakup and the heartbreak and sadness. And then there are the straight out rock ‘n’ roll ones that I consider to be the rebound. So through that progression a story became fairly clear to me. I said, this is a kid remembering his first heartbreak. So pulling from my own ridiculous history, I was able to come up with some funny stories about that.”
Stewart praises the expertise of Schuessler, Wilder and the rest of the HJT staff and crew who helped him make the leap into unknown territory.
“My career has been pantomime, physical comedy and circus skills, so this is a departure as far as that goes,” Stewart says. “However, this particular show is very close to home for me. It has elements of biography in it, and the music is something I’ve lived with my whole life. I haven’t had to struggle with the lyrics, as they are all second nature. My initial thought about it was Jay, you’re not a singer. But once I stopped saying that to myself and met with Bob Wilder, I realized I was in good hands.”
The band features Wilder, described by Stewart as a magician, on keyboard and two extremely talented young men, Alex Harper on guitar and Phil White on drums.
“It’s so much fun. It’s so much fun to do, and to laugh about these ridiculous things that did happen to me, and ridiculous things that I made up. There are certain things you’ll know when you watch—you’ll say to yourself, ‘I’ll bet that really happened.’ That’s what good theater does. As Shakespeare said, it holds a mirror up to nature. You see the truth. How many times have you heard people say ‘It’s funny because it’s true?’”
“Elvis… The King and Me” written by and starring Jay Stewart, with musical direction by Bob Wilder, opens June 12 and runs Friday and Saturday evenings through September. With sound design by J. Hagenbuckle, set design by Richard Archer, lighting design by B.J. Powell, costumes by Robin McLaughlin, and props by Mary Beth Travis. For information on matinees and additional show times or to purchase tickets, visit www.hjtcapecod.org or call the box office at 508-432-2002. Tickets are also available through Theatremania at 866-811-4111.